I don't make public entries often (ever), but I'm making this one public, in the hopes of having more people read it and realize how truly disturbing it is. If you are able to, I would encourage you to read my good friend Kern's facebook note about the Military Commissions Act, signed into law by the president on Tuesday.
I have a few thoughts.
Even the debate team's token conservative, Nick Gower, agrees that the government ought to be constrained by a system of checks and balances. The key difference in our opinions, then, is that he believes that the government is already being adequately constrained, and I do not. I think the Military Commissions Act, more commonly known as "the detainees bill", is a key example of this lack of constraints.
Article six of the constitution states that the "supreme law of the land" consists of both the constitution and any international treaties to which the US agrees. The Geneva Convention's rules, according to our constitution, are as binding, as forceful, and every bit as much an element of American jurisprudence as the constitution itself.
And neither the president nor the legislature have the right to change that, or selectively reinterpret it, or call it "quaint", or flat-out ignore it. The Geneva Convention explicitly outlaws "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment" and, more importantly, "the passing of sentences without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."
Under the Geneva Convention, and our constitution, detainees have a constitutional right to 8th amendment treatment (no cruel and unusual punishment), and they have a constitutional right to due process--not top-secret military tribunals. The Supreme Court, recently packed with conservatives as it may be, agreed on this simple fact when it ruled on Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.
The Military Commissions Act changes all this. It attempts to rescind the Supreme Court's jurisdiction on the issue of detainees, and gives the President the power to pick and choose which elements of international law apply to our proceedings. This is an act which fundamentally removes checks and balances on presidential powers--because what he does can't be challenged in the Supreme Court, and he's no longer constrained by the supreme law of the land.
We're put in a delicate situation under this law, one which Kern explains quite well. This bill asks the American people to trust that the president will not use this newfound power to torture and maim or to hold US and foreign citizens in detention facilities indefinitely. We're asked to trust that one person can make these decisions about who has rights and who doesn't, and that he can make those decisions fairly, without any external interference. We're asked to suspend disbelief, to hush our dissent, and to let the president act without any checks, or any balances.
And, honestly, I do not trust our president to act in the interests of human dignity, or to act in the interests of justice. I think he's already proven that when it comes to the issues of torture and due process, he believes strongly in a disturbing brand of American exceptionalism.
If you would not tolerate this kind of power-grab, this type of flagrant disregard for justice and international human rights, from any other world leader--Hu Jintau, Kim Jong Il, Mohammed Ahmadinejad--I'd like to ask you to contemplate this profound shift in our system of government, and hold the American government to the same, if not a higher standard, of what is acceptable conduct with regards to human rights.
paranoid star lover
you talk rich and that's your cover
- On Tuesday...